Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ellie's Kitchen: Martha Stewart's Ropa Vieja

I'm not a die-hard Martha Stewart fact I don't actually recall reading her magazine anywhere but at the dentist's office. So why did I feel the need to pick up the issue I saw at the grocery store? Absolutely for the promise of the ropa vieja recipe.

Who doesn't love the smell of  slow-cooked beef stew? Because this is a slow-cooker recipe, I'm able to toss everything together and left it quietly do it's thing, slowly filling the house with deliciousness while I scrub the bathroom (no fun but entirely necessary).

I am not ashamed to admit that most of Martha Stewart's recipes are over my head. I'm a home-cook, not  an uber-cook. (That title belongs to my sister who has a degree in culinary arts and has worked in amazing places like Wales and Cape Cod. For those of you home-cooks who can whip up a Martha recipe with one hand stirring and the other guiding you young reader across the page, I totally salute you. Please excuse me while I wallow in my inadequacy and let my slow cooker do all the work.


  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut into thick slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thick slices
  • 3 large cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 1 jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired), cut into thin slices
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup small Spanish olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained, plus 1 tablespoon brine
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Cooked white rice, for serving (I made  pot of coconut rice. So tastie)


  1. Preheat a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker. Season steak generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high. Add steak and cook until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin seeds; season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; cook 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Pour mixture over steak in slow cooker; cover and cook on high until very tender, 5 hours (or on low 10 hours).
  3. Transfer steak to a platter; cut in half crosswise. Using two forks, shred meat. Transfer sauce to skillet; cook over high heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in shredded meat, olives, and capers with brine; cook just until heated through, 2 minutes more. Top with cilantro and serve with rice.
  slow cooker root ropa vieja

Monday, August 7, 2017

Library Loot

     A promotion at work has thrown my writing schedule into a tailspin, so the only logical thing to do was to apply to the American Women's College at Bay Path University for fall classes. Makes perfect sense, really.
     I have until September 4 to cram in as much of my 'for me' reading as I can, and I've been doing my best. Many of my latest reads were amazing books, ones I feel I should have shared here in Ellie's Home, and I may spend some time this weekend doing a retro-review. In the meantime, here are two books I have coming up (they are currently 'In Transit' according to my library account)

Milk and Honey
milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
 Image result for milk and honey  This book has been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 67 weeks, and still holding steady. A coworker and her daughter read it, and have said it is phenomenal. Can't wait to see for myself.

 We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria
Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.
Image result for we crossed a bridge and it trembled voices from syria Twenty-six of the 29 reviews of this book on Goodreads were 5-star; two were 4-star, and one 3-star, with a note stating that the 3-star rating was for the writing style, not the book content. The world has witnessed the struggles and nightmare lives of the Syrian people; their stories are a reminder to us that humanity has strengths we can't begin to realize. I am very much looking forward to reading this book, though I expect it will break my heart.

(All book descriptions taken from